Review: Jew..ish at Gilded Balloon

Promising a “pitch-black romantic comedy about true love, politics, and two millennia of inherited trauma”; Jew…ish pitches itself as about a young couple who “are in love; with amphetamines, the Palestine Liberation Organisation, and ooh, Jeremy Corbyn”.

By my count there was: a single reference to Corbyn (in song), two Momentum jokes (one funny), zilch PLO gags, and a brief reference to “doing amphetamine on the Portobello Road”. For such a playful show “pitch-black” is pushing it too. But hey, if the product is good, what’s wrong with a bit of false advertising? 

What this accomplished, spirited, and genuinely hilarious play actually does explore is intercultural relationships, Jewish family life, and the plight of millennials trying to make their way in the arts. It’s a romcom – a TV pilot turned play- by two actors with a magnetic chemistry and thoughtful, creative staging and direction.

The drama revolves around the tempestuous relationship of a Jew and a goy, and their faltering attempts to grow up. TJ (Edie Newman) is a performance artist with radical politics and a plummy accent. Max (co-writer Saul Boyer) is a neurotic aspiring comedian with an overbearing family. Their fights and flirtations are electric. When TJ seduces Max after they ruin a friend’s wedding it’s pitch-perfect. Newman plays a mix of intimacy, sexuality, and comedy beautifully. And Boyer’s awkward energy is a joy to watch. 

This is a situational comedy with genuine brilliance. North London’s secular Jewish world of synagogues, weddings, therapists and religious justifications for drinking is portrayed in a profound, hilarious, and gripping way. As are the tribulations of being a struggling actor and thirty-something. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the radical politics the characters espouse – which feel slapstick and unimaginative, deployed as the butt of a joke without adding any narrative development. One suspects this is down to a lack of passion for the subject from those who devised the show. 

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